The Kremlin Ballet was born in 1990 on the initiative of its founder and present artistic director, Andrei Petrov, and thanks to his energy, persistence and undoubted organizational abilities. He knew this huge stage well – he had danced on it as a Bolshoi Ballet soloist since 1965, when he joined the country’s first ballet company after graduating from the Moscow Academy of Choreography (the former Moscow Ballet School).
At that time, the Kremlin Palace was the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia’s second stage and its productions were shown here on a regular basis. Later on, when the Bolshoi stopped using the Kremlin Palace, Petrov had the idea of creating an independent company, based on this theatre. The idea won the active support of Russian ballet people. The outstanding dancers Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev began to collaborate with the new Company, Vasiliev transferring to the Kremlin stage his ballet Macbeth (music by Kyril Molchanov), premièred at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1980. And so the young Kremlin Ballet Company opened with Macbeth..
Their second production was Evening of Old Ballet – fragments from The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, La Sylphide, and also the virtually unknown in Moscow Marius Petipa masterpiece Dance of the Hours from Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera La Gioconda and Petipa’s one act ballet Halte de Cavalerie (music Johann Armsheimer).
Andrei Petrov, the new theatre’s artistic director, gave a clear definition of the Company’s future course – its repertoire would be based on masterpieces from the classical legacy and modern dance of various trends. The Company, which was still in the process of formation, was made up of graduates from various ballet schools. Heading the Kremlin Ballet’s group of répétiteurs was Ekaterina Maximova. «We weren’t out to conquer, astonish, enter into competition with the Bolshoi Theatre», she said. «We simply wanted to create our own Company which would present sound productions in which our young dancers would be able to show what they were made of.»
Working alongside Maximova as teachers were Ekaterina Aksyonova, Erik Volodin, Nataliya Voskresenskaya, Alevtina Korzenkova, Vladimir Koshelyev, Vadim Tedeev, Lyudmila Charskaya. Under their direction, the Company’s first generation of young soloists rehearsed their parts: Anastasia Nabokina, Svetlana Romanova, Tatiana Gordeyeva, Zinaida Volina, Oleg Korzenkov, Vadim Kremensky. In the Company’s productions, the well-known dancers Svetlana Tsoi, Valery Anisimov, Valery Lantratov, Vadim Tedeyev, Andrei Kondratov, displayed new aspects of their talents. Kremlin Ballet actively set about drawing up an original repertoire. In 1991, Vladimir Vasiliev did a new version of Prokofiev’s Cinderella.. Ekaterina Maximova’s interpretation of the title role and Vladimir Vasiliev’s performance as The Stepmother was a much talked about event in Moscow’s theatre life. Cinderella was given close on two hundred performances. Next came a ballet based on Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila..
Having made several cuts to the score, scored the vocal and chorus episodes for instruments, and composed the necessary linking passages, the well-known musician and Moscow Conservatoire professor, Vladislav Agafonnikov, created a ballet version of this famous opera. Choreographer Andrei Petrov arranged a colorful pageant where, in the crowd scenes, solo episodes, duets and ensembles, academic classical dance was combined with the riotous fantasy of the Russian folk dance.
A result of the collaboration between Andrei Petrov and composer Tikhon Khrennikov was the ballet-chronicle Napoleon Buonaparte, which recreated the atmosphere of episodes from French and Russian history. At the centre of the narrative, is the bold officer-dreamer, the lovesick general, then the all-powerful emperor and, finally, the prisoner on the Island of St. Helena.
Contemporary music, which occupies a major place in the Kremlin Ballet repertoire, acts as a spur to the creative imagination of the Company’s artistic director. Take, for instance, Andrei Petrov’s work in giving stage form to the Gogol theme. For the Bolshoi Theatre, he created Sketches, a ballet to music by Alfred Schnittke, in which Gogol’s personages from Dead Souls, The Inspector General, The Great Coat, The Nose, The Diary of a Madman were brought to life on stage. In 1997, Petrov returned again to Sketches, and they now form part of a two-act canvas The Nevsky Prospekt.. The other part – The Portrait is to music by Dmitri Shostakovich. This work is a curious artistic experiment.
1998, brought The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (music by Pavel Ovsyannikov, choreography by Andrei Petrov), a lively and joyful ballet, close in mood to Mark Twain’s tale. The ballet’s specific genre style amounts to a kaleidoscope of circus devices, elements of ballroom dance of the age, ‘pirate’ scenes, as seen through the eyes of a teenager.
The ballet Katya and the Prince of Siam was created in 2003, in Thailand, during the Company’s tour of that country. It is a romantic story about the love between a Siamese prince and a Russian girl. «I had to study a lot of sources», choreographer Andrei Petrov told us, «get to know modern Thai dance. Thai ballet is both interesting and original. Pavel Ovsyannikov wrote the stylized music, décor and sets are by Vladimir Arefev and Olga Polyanskaya». Katya and the Prince of Siam, which was presented in Thailand, went down very well with the public. The main roles were danced by Natalya Balakhnicheva, Jeanna Bogoroditskaya, Sergei Smirnov, Aidar Shaydullin.
The Kremlin Ballet Company’s repertoire is closely linked to the ballet classics: Halte de Cavalerie, Don Quixote, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle, Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty, Esmeralda.
In his version of Nutcracker, Andrei Petrov’s aim is to keep close to the literary basis of the ballet, E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, and to recreate on stage Hoffmann’s world of fantasy. While in Tchaikovsky’s music, the choreographer hears different motifs: the eternal struggle between good and evil. He adopts a similar policy in the case of Délibes Coppélia. Creating the ballet anew and studying the original libretto by Charles Nuitter and Artur Saint-Léon, he permeates his version with themes from the Hoffmann novella Der Sandmann..
Yuri Grigorovich has collaborated three times with Kremlin Ballet.. He mounted for it Romeo and Juliet (1999), Ivan the Terrible (2001) and Le Corsaire (2007). These (particularly Romeo and Juliet), were new versions of his previous productions, created specially for the Company. Grigorovich has always had a flair for combining original choreography with restoration of the classical legacy, and it was this same quality he demonstrated in his collaboration with the Company.
Premières in recent years are Andrei Petrov’s versions of Esmeralda (2006) and Figaro (2008). The first is a romantic ballet based on Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris, an organic combination of old and new choreography, and the second, an absolutely original in terms of its concept, comic ballet to music by Rossini and Mozart.
Kremlin Ballet has begun to collaborate with the Maris Liepa Foundation, headed by Andris and Ilze Liepa, and with the SAV Entertainment production company (board chairman Nadezhda Solovyova). The following masterpieces from the famous Diaghilev enterprise have been revived: The Blue God, Tamar, Schéhérazade, Firebird, Bolero, L’Après-midi d’un faune, Le Pavillon d’Armide.. Taking part in this Russian Seasons 21st century project were the following ballet stars: Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Ilze Liepa, Irma Nioradze, Ilya Kuznetsov, Jeanna Ayupova, Tatiana Chernobrovkina. Contemporary foreign choreographers participated in the project: Wayne Eagling (The Blue Bird) and Jurijus Smoriginas (Tamar and Le Pavillon d’Armide).
The following Russian and foreign ballet stars have taken part as guest artists in Kremlin Ballet productions: Anastasiya Volochkova, Yuri Klevtsov and Alexander Volchkov (Bolshoi Theatre of Russia). Karl Paquette, Matilde Froustey and Stéphane Bullion (Paris Opèra National), Igor Iebra (Spain), Michael Shannon (USA), Sergei Sidorsky (National Opera of Ukraine)
The following scenographers and costume designers have worked with the Company: Viktor and Rafail Volsky, Marina Sokolova, Boris Messerer, Stanislav Benediktov, Olga Polyanskaya, Vladimir Arefev, Boris Krasnov, Pavel Orinyansky, Anna and Anatoly Nezhny, Grigory Belov, Nikolai Sharonov. For Romeo and Juliet and Ivan the Terrible the Simon Virsaladze sets were reproduced under the supervision of Margarita Prokudina. The Sergei Rachmaninov Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Petukhov, participates on a permanent basis in the Kremlin Ballet productions.
The Company tours extensively in Russia and abroad – 26 countries and many Russian cities have had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with its repertory. Kremlin Ballet, which will soon be celebrating its twentieth anniversary, is a mobile Company with an original repertoire and a distinctive artistic signature of its own.